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Tasting Notes

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Osborn Siegert Architecture, Dave Siegert, Principal Architect  
Photography by Sara Sanger  
Tasting Notes
by Camille LeFevre

As various contractors searched for their job site—the new tasting room for Davies Vineyards under construction on Main Street in St. Helena, California—all they could find was “the old stone building,” recalls Dave Siegert, Principal Architect, Osborn Siegert Architecture (os-arch), Santa Rosa. The confusion actually spoke to the historic nature of the tasting room’s design. 

That “old” building was in fact new. The two-story structure, clad in stone quarried from the Napa Valley Mountains, so resembled the town’s historic buildings, which also had been constructed from local stone, that any differences were indiscernible. “The stone was an obvious choice,” says Siegert, who designed a building with materials that blend into St. Helena’s existing architectural lexicon.  

Along with concrete, steel and repurposed barn wood, the 55,000-square-foot Davies Vineyards tasting room conveys “historic context with a modern edge,” Siegert adds. With that remark, he’s not only referring to the building’s context sensitivity. He’s also referencing the winery’s remarkable provenance. Davies Vineyards produced its first vintage in 2012. But the venture was conceived at the historic Schramsberg Vineyards in  Napa Valley.  

Founded in 1862 in the Diamond Mountain appellation south of Calistoga by Jacob Schram, that 218-acre property was re-established by sparkling wine producers Jack and Jamie Davies in 1965. Subsequently, Schramsberg Vineyards became known globally for its signature sparkling wines. 

Today, the Davies’ son, Hugh Davies, is Vintner/President of Schramsberg Vineyards, J. Davies Estate and Davies Vineyards. He expanded the holdings with the addition of Davies Vineyards for the production of still red wines. 

The first step for the new Davies Vineyards was building a production facility that repurposed an existing building on the site of a former Chevrolet dealership in St. Helena. Siegert, along with os-arch partner Doug Osborn, assisted with that project. Then they began master planning the rest of the property. The next structure to build was the tasting room. 

“Hugh has extensively researched and studied his family’s history, and the history of winemaking in the area,” Siegert says. “The architecture and materiality of the tasting room reflect how Davies Vineyards is rooted in tradition. At the same time, we introduced modern elements and innovations that clearly separate the old from the new, and establish Davies Vineyards as a separate entity.” As a result, the new tasting room “provides a nice narrative transition within the overall history of the winery.” 

Throughout the interior, Siegert left the stone walls, steel structure, and Douglas Fir framing and walls salvaged from old barns exposed to convey an aesthetic both industrial and rustic. Adding to the aesthetic are polished concrete floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and metal sheet cladding behind the tasting bar and in the reception and display areas. 

The front entrance opens into a two-story atrium and reception space. In the sitting area next to the stone fireplace family memorabilia and artifacts are displayed, including the Davies family crest. The dramatic circular chandeliers above the couches and chairs were constructed from metal wine-barrel straps. 

“Everyone knew we needed a sculptural lighting element in the space,” Siegert says, including Davies, his wife Monique, and Pam Silleman, Interior Designer. “We started out with hanging barrels, which evolved into an exploding barrel, and finally deconstructed into the barrel rings woven together, which Pam and her team then developed.” Daylighting through expansive windows and strategically placed LEDs also illuminate the interior while highlighting spaces and wine displays.

The building has several private tasting rooms, including the Pinot Noir room on the main level and the Cabernet Sauvignon (the winery’s flagship) room on the upper level. On the first floor, a commercial-grade kitchen is equipped with a dumbwaiter so food and wine can be transported to the second floor. The second level also houses administrative offices, an event space that doubles as a board room, and a sitting area next to another fireplace. 

Glass doors adjacent to the first-floor reception area open onto an outdoor patio, which overlooks a demonstration vineyard. Here, visitors are invited to learn about wine-making practices and taste the grapes before harvest. Osborn and Siegert are currently working on the next phase of the winery’s master plan and designing a barrel-room extension on the production facility. 

Several wine writers, in celebrating the addition of Davies Vineyards to the Napa Valley and lauding its new tasting room, referred to the structure as having the feel of a ghost winery—stone wineries typically built before Prohibition. Relics of a previous century,  with some purported to be haunted, those historic wineries stand as reminders of Napa Valley’s heritage. The design of the Davies Vineyards tasting room nods to that historic precedent with contextual sensitivity, while introducing a modern winery with architectural flair to the public.

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